Russian Taliban fighter sentenced to life imprisonment
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The Russian Taliban fighter and former Russian army tank commander was sentenced to life in prison on charges of shooting down American helicopters and killing US and Afghan soldiers.
The sentence was announced to Irek Ilgiz Hamidullin, 55 by US District Judge Henry E Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia on Thursday.
“Irek Hamidullin has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in orchestrating and conducting a violent attack on Afghan and US forces in Afghanistan in 2009, and conspiring to kill members of the US military,” said Assistant Attorney General John P Carlin.
Hamidullin was captured and detained by the US military in Afghanistan and brought to the United States for trial.
According to court documents, on November 28, 2009, Hamidullin led a group of fighters in an attack on a border outpost known as Camp Leyza, located in the Khost province of Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan.
He had planned the attack for months; received approval from the Taliban and Haqqani Network; recruited other fighters; and acquired weapons for the attack, including IED’s, heavy machine guns and a shoulder-fired rocket, with the intent of shooting down US helicopters responding to the attack.
According to evidence presented at trial, on the night of November 28, 2009, Hamidullin and his fighters initiated their attack with an assault on Camp Leyza.
Soon after the attack began, two US Army helicopters responded to Camp Leyza, just as Hamidullin anticipated from his months of planning and reconnaissance.
Military witnesses testified at trial that it was a common tactic for insurgents at the time to attack an Afghan position intending to draw in and ambush their real target, the responding US forces.
Hamidullin positioned himself on a nearby hill, away from his fighters, where he had a clear view of the battlefield and could radio orders to his fighters.
As the helicopters approached, he ordered his fighters to fire the anti-aircraft weapons he had strategically placed in the area. Both weapons malfunctioned and the helicopters were not fired upon.
After the heavy weapons failed to fire, Hamidullin ordered his fighters to pack up their weapons and other gear and return to Pakistan. US military helicopters in the area observed the insurgents “bounding back” in an organized military fashion.
Thereafter, a US aircraft spotted the insurgents attempting to set an ambush for the approaching US and Afghan forces.
Once the aircraft confirmed that the insurgents were carrying Kalashnikov machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers, the US helicopters were given approval to engage the insurgents. US forces ultimately identified and eliminated approximately 20 of Hamidullin’s fighters.
The next morning, as US and Afghan forces were conducting a battle damage assessment, Hamidullin was found hiding on the battlefield.
Hamidullin opened fire on the US forces with a Kalashnikov machine gun, but was wounded and captured after a brief firefight.
US military personnel testified during the trial that the insurgents were remarkably well-equipped and in addition to the heavy weapons, they were also carrying, for example, GPS devices and USD400 military-style watches.
During the battle damage assessment, US military personnel found, among other weapons carried by the insurgents, three 50 caliber anti-aircraft machine guns, 82 millimeter recoilless rifles and scores of smaller weapons and grenades.
The insurgents were also carrying all the materials necessary to construct three different kinds of improvised explosive devices, which were all of the kind that had been used by insurgents against US forces operating at that time in Khost province.
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